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First Quarter 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 11: March 10–16
COMMENTARY ON "DEBT—A DAILY DECISION"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This is the memory text for this week's theme:
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:7-8)
The Quarterly lesson theme is supported with this quote concerning having unwise debt:
"Yet, we must be careful. Spending money we don’t have is the gateway for God’s people to “make covetousness and love of earthly treasures the ruling traits of their character. As long as these traits rule, salvation and grace stand back.”—Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 267."
This commentary will focus on what the memory text is really teaching instead of how it is used in the Quarterly lessons for this week. Aside from questioning the Quarterly author's real agenda much of the lesson material concerning avoiding unnecessary personal debt certainly is good advice.
An Unstated Assumption
Within Adventism it is assumed that only the "ceremonial laws" of the Old Mosaic Covenant were made obsolete by the death of Jesus at Calvary. Contrary to that belief what Scripture actually teaches is that the whole Old Covenant, not just the laws of that covenant, was perfectly fulfilled by Jesus at Calvary and thereby made obsolete.
When teaching from the book of Romans we need to build line upon line by not ignoring the context of what came before the the memory text of Rom. 13:7-8. Earlier in Romans chapter seven Paul specifically addresses those "brothers" who know and understand the obsolete Old Covenant, Rom 7:1. In Romans 7:2-4 Paul then compares the Church, the Bride of Christ, with the earthly marrige covenant of a woman bound to her husband in marrige. Christians, specifically Jewish Christians, are no longer bound by the older covenant because the death of Jesus at Calvary ended that covenant, thereby they became free to join into another totally different covenant of marrige. The commandments of Jesus in the New Covenant are not equal with nor the same as the laws of the older obsolete covenant.
Turning to the Book of Hebrews we learn that Jesus' priesthood is after the "order of Melchizedek" instead of the "order of Aaron". This clarifies that the commands of Jesus are not the laws of the older obsolete "order of Aaron":
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. (Heb. 7:11-14)
The out of context use of Scripture in the lesson should raise questions in our mind as to what Scripture really teaches concerning personal indebtedness. Certainly there are dangers to be understood and avoided by learning what Scripture, all Scripture, has to say about this. However we should be aware that the real goal of this week's lessons may be something other than just for our own personal benefit.
In Romans 13:1-7 Paul teaches that we are to obey civil authorities:
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Rom. 13:2)
When you include the context of the passage that comes before Rom. 13:7-8 you will learn that this chapter of Romans is not about monetary stewardship:
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."
We need to be reminded that Jesus' shed blood that covers all our sins is a debt forgiven sinners can never pay back to the Savior. Therefore Paul says; "Owe no one anything, except to love each other...". The one and only debt you have is "paid" by loving others in the way God loves you.
Keep in mind that the overall Quarterly theme is centered upon "stewardship" with this week's lessons focused on wisely limiting our financial indebtedness. As we shall see the real quarterly agenda is much more about being free to give towards the support of Adventist "kingdom advancement" with the personal benefit of being free of unneeded indebtedness being a secondary issue. If an Adventist is unable or otherwise simply refuses to respond favorably to the Quarterly lesson message he/she is left with unresolved guilt.
The memory text comes from a chapter of the book of Romans where the theme is not about the wise stewardship of personal income. As already mentioned, in chapter 7 the Apostle Paul disposes of the Old Covenant and the law contained within it by declaring any one who attempts to obey the laws of an obsolete covenant while actually being in another covenant are guilty of spiritual adultery.
In Romans chapter 8 we learn that Christians are to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of the written laws of the obsolete Old Covenant.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4)
In this lesson there is an attempt to place the student under an unbiblical 'a law of giving' where you must direct your monetary giving upwards to goals that are set by the Adventist leadership. Whereas such giving should should be done by faith under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Progressing onward to chapter 13 the real biblical theme is that for those whose sins are eternally covered by the shed blood of Jesus are those whose "love for each others" fulfills all the law of the conditional old covenant that has become obsolete.
Concerning the importance of godly love Jesus said this to the Pharisees (those who were still under the Old Covenant law) in Matt. 22:37-40:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
So yes, our response and acknowledgment is that good financial stewardship is important. Yet why are we given a passage of Scripture where stewardship is secondary to what the biblical passage is really teaching? We find the answer in the instructions given to the teachers of the Quarterly lesson. Here it reveals the real goal of the lesson concerning the use of our personal "financial resources":
"The Lesson in Brief
Key Text: Romans 13:7, 8
The Student Will:
Know: Identify the factors that contribute to needless debt within the context of being faithful stewards of God, entrusted with financial resources.
Feel: Experience the emotional freedom of becoming debt free with the liberty to invest surpluses for kingdom advancement.
Do: Structure income and expenses so that debt does not become a financial and emotional burden."
While it is certainly wise to limit our personal financial indebtedness, the theme of Romans 13:7-8 is about something much more than our "financial resources". Why does the lesson author claim we will feel "emotional freedom" if and when we invest our surpluses for kingdom advancement? Just what is meant by "kingdom advancement" and where do we find this in Scripture?
In Rom. 13:1-8 it says:
The context of the whole of Romans chapter 13 simply does not include any reference to being at "liberty to invest surpluses for kingdom advancement".
As you continue into verses 9-12, Paul outlines some of the sins Christians are to avoid and stresses that "the hour has come for you to wake from sleep"..."So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light":
Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom. 13:13-14)